Meb, Morgan and Amy don’t disappoint
There’s more to the Olympics than medals. Sometimes, to understand the intensity of the historic moments that were realized, you have to look past those standing on the podium.
The 2012 London Olympic Games will go down in US history for many reasons: the first African American woman to win gold in the all-around gymnastics competition and Michael Phelps becoming the most decorated Olympian of all time with 22 medals, just to name a few, but for Mammoth and the Eastern Sierra, there were other historic moments that should make us cheer our Olympic athletes as they arrive back home.
While Mammoth resident Meb Keflezighi may have finished one step below the podium, in fourth place in the men’s marathon, his accomplishments in these Games were huge. As the LA Times pointed out in an article earlier this week:
“Yet while Keflezighi will leave London empty-handed, Sunday’s race did secure him a place among the most accomplished marathoners in Olympic history. Since Keflezighi was a silver medalist in Athens eight years ago, his fourth-place finish here makes him the only American besides two-time medalist Frank Shorter to finish that high in multiple Games. And just six other runners from any country have finished fourth or better twice — none of them over the space of three Olympics, which is how long it took Keflezighi.”
“Basically he proved everyone wrong in the last year,” said Mammoth Lakes Tourism Executive Director John Urdi, referring to all of the naysayers who claimed Keflezighi, 37, was too old to challenge for a medal.
Not only did Keflezighi make his way back to fourth place after dropping into 16th place at one point during the race on Aug. 12, but he was also the only American to finish the men’s marathon this year. Ryan Hall, 29, and Abdi Abdirahman, 35, dropped out just after 15 kilometers. Hall had a tightening right hamstring and Abdirahman said he felt his knee pop.
According to Urdi, the marathon winner, Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda is only 23, while the second and third place winners from Kenya are 30.
Which means Meb was only three minutes behind someone who was 14 years younger than him, and even closer to runners who are seven years his junior.
Urdi also pointed out that Keflezighi had worked his way back from an injury he received when he left a Breathe Right nasal strip in his shoe during the New York City Marathon. The strip cut into his foot, and left him with an infection, but he still won the Olympic Trials in Houston 69 days later with a personal best time.
“Did I want to finish fourth – no,” said Keflezighi in an interview with the Denver Post following Sunday’s race. “But at the world (championships) or Olympic Games I’ll take it, especially considering that I did not make the Olympics in 2008. I am very proud of myself and our country to finish fourth.”
And the rest of us should be as well.
As for Mammoth’s female runners, who trained locally in the run up to the Games, Urdi emphasized the following:
“Amy Hastings finished 11th in the Women’s 10,000 meters but was the #1 finisher for the USA,” Urdi said.
“Morgan Uceny  had to go through two qualifying rounds (quarterfinals and semifinals) in order to be one of two Americans in the finals on Friday. While it is unfortunate she tripped [during the 1,500 meter race] – making it to the finals is a HUGE accomplishment and she will be back and ready for 2016 in Rio for sure.”
Expect Hastings, 28, to be a contender in the 2016 Olympics as well, Urdi said. “Both women will be a big threat for the next Olympics.”
Urdi stated that Mammoth Lakes Tourism is waiting to determine when the runners will be returning to Mammoth before planning a celebratory party, but promised to keep the community posted.